Monday, June 20, 2016

Florence, Italy (Pt. 2)

I’m finally back in the city that stole my 17-year-old heart. When I took the trip with National Geographic five years ago we stayed the majority of our time in Italy in Florence. I completely fell in love. I love the streets, food, people, buildings, culture, history, atmosphere, air, e v e r y t h i n g about this city. I promised myself I would find my way back at some point in my life, preferably to live for a short time, but at least to visit. Five years and a few countries later, I’ve managed to make my way back to the City of Lilies. 

All afternoon we walked around town near the Il Duomo, ate gelato (of course), saw some statues, perused around some shops, and even found my favorite scarves I originally found five years ago! I had purchased two of the most beautiful scarves last time I visited Florence, but managed to lose both of them during my time back in the states. I looked around more shops than I can count looking for that specific kind of scarf, and finally managed to stumble upon the ONE shop that sells them! Megan and Jaclyn loved them so much they decided to get some as well.

That first night we walked to a restaurant right next to the Il Duomo (talk about dinner with a view!) and ate incredible pasta while watching the Iceland v Portugal soccer match on a huge projector in the restaurant. Every other patron was overtly pulling for Portugal to beat Iceland, except for us three. Then, when Iceland scored (their first goal in history at the Euros !!!!!) our table cheered so loudly that heads turned in confusion. The craziest part is one other table with a very Icelandic-looking couple cheered just as loudly. After the match I walked over to them and asked if they were from Iceland (they were), and we all had an interesting conversation explaining the reason why three American girls in Italy were cheering for the Icelandic National team. It never ceases to amaze me how small this world actually is.

(BTW – SO SO proud of Iceland for qualifying for the Euros for the first time in the history of the country, and then opening their tournament campaign TYING PORTUGAL & not allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to score! HOW FREAKING AWESOME IS THAT! I’ve only been living in Iceland for less than three months, but I feel a sense of pride for the beautiful country and the incredible Icelandic people I know.)

For our second day in Florence we had scheduled to go to a winery in Tuscany that had a castle tour and wine tasting on the property. I was a 17-year-old on a school trip the first time I went to Tuscany, so wine tasting wasn’t really in the cards for us. We spent a day touring an olive oil vineyard at a winery but were only able to taste different olive oils on bread. That was a great experience, but being able to go back and do an actual winery tour and drink wine at the age of 22 was an amazing experience. The winery tour was probably one of the things I was most excited about when booking this trip to Italy, because written down on my bucket list of 100+ things is #57: Go Wine Tasting In Italy. I love when I get to cross something off of my bucket list!!

We went to Castello di Verrazzano in Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy. The winery’s castle sat on the top of a very large hill that took us 30 minutes to walk up, exacerbated by the time we reached the top. But the walk was well worth the view!! We passed by the vineyards, and witnessed incredible views of the countryside we wouldn’t have enjoyed quite as much passing by in a car. We toured the castle with a small group, learned a lot about how wine is made, why different wines are made in different ways, and all those interesting tidbits you never thought you wanted to know, but are so glad you were listening to as you guzzled your fair share of quality Italian wine.

Accompanied with tasting the wine, we also devoured a meat and cheese plate. And I entirely mean it when I say devoured. Italians make incredible meat and cheese, as well as wine! No wonder people fall in love with this country – you can’t go wrong at mealtime! At our table sat a family of Brazilian vegetarians. An older man, an older, but not quite as old woman (his daughter), and her son and daughter who were in their twenties. During small talk the son found out two of us were from Texas, me being from Houston. He then asked us about how we felt about the Rodeo. He told us he was an animal rights activist in Brazil who protested against how they treated the animals in the Brazilian rodeos, and he wanted to know the point of view on rodeos from someone who grew up around them. I told him what I thought about them and also how our culture as a whole views them, which is in a positive light for the most part, them being so popular all across the country. It was an interesting conversation to say the least, and definitely one I did not expect to have with a vegan Brazilian at a wine tasting in Tuscany!

After our stomachs were full from food and our souls were satisfied with wine, we made our way back down the hill and barely caught the next bus back to the city. The next stop on our agenda: my absolute favorite gelato shop where I ate during my first stay in Florence - GROM. GROM is just way too good to miss out on, so I made sure to take Megan and Jaclyn there on our last day (and as an excuse to eat in again myself). GROM is kind of hidden on a small side street close to the Il Duomo, and luckily it wasn't super packed at the time we went. It was just as delicious as I remember!!! And the perfect way to end an already perfect day. 

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